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Hazardous driving conditions and power outages across Montana

Montana road conditions + winter driving safety (May 8, 2024)
Posted at 1:21 PM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 15:21:35-04

GREAT FALLS — With accumulating snow continuing to fall across parts of Montana, driving is hazardous today. There have been slide-offs and minor crashes reported across the region.

Among the areas hardest hit are the roads from Armington Junction to Stanford, and from Armington Junction south to Neihart.

There are also several power outages across the region. Here are some the reports:

Fergus Electric Cooperative: "As a result of the spring storm that rolled in with the high winds yesterday, Fergus Electric is experiencing widespread power outages. We are aware of multiple broken poles and downed power lines in several areas. We will have the help of a helicopter service once it is safe to fly, which hopefully will be this afternoon. The helicopter will allow us to make an assessment of our service area and pinpoint problem areas that need repaired. This is likely to be an extended outage event. Be safe and stay clear of all downed power lines. Assume they are energized and call Fergus Electric to report the location."

Cascade County Disaster & Emergency Services: "Cascade County is currently experiencing severe weather conditions, which is resulting in challenging driving conditions and localized power outages with lots of power lines down. Our team is diligently monitoring weather updates and will provide you with timely information regarding any necessary actions that need to be taken. If you see lines down, do not attempt to drive around them and please stay away. Report down lines to Cascade County Dispatch at 406-454-6978."

Judith Basin County Sheriff's Office: "Heads UP!!! US HWY 87 is closed from Stanford West to Armington Junction. There are several power lines down and low that are causing electrical hazards. Please be patient as crews work on these issues. Its crappy outside....if you don't HAVE to go out, PLEASE DON'T!!"

Winifred Public Schools: "We apologize for the lack of communication due to the power outage this morning. The backup generator did not perform as expected and we were unable to get communication out to everyone about the plans for school today. School is in session until 10:00 AM. If the power is not restored by then we will release students early. This will ensure enough hours that we will not have to extend the school year. The Early Kindergarten programs have been rescheduled for Monday, May 13th."

Montana Highway Patrol: "Emergency crews are on scene and working to get Bozeman pass open. Currently both sides are closed. Please stay clear of the area until more information is known. As of right now there is no alternate route. Will update when more information is received on the status of the closure."

Check the Montana Department of Transportation website before you hit the road to find out which roads are snow-covered, which ones have ice and/or slush, and if any roads are closed.

Montana road conditions + winter driving safety (May 8, 2024)

Keeping an emergency kit in your vehicle is important - recommended items include:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flares or reflective triangle
  • Ice scraper
  • Car cell phone charger
  • Blanket
  • Map
  • Cat litter or sand (for better tire traction)

MDT provides the following safety information:

  1. Allow extra time to get to your destination.
  2. Clean off your car. Keep windows, mirrors and lights clear of snow and ice.
  3. Turn off cruise control.
  4. Always buckle up.
  5. Slow down in poor visibility conditions.
  6. Maintain a safe distance behind other vehicles.
  7. Expect ice on bridges and in shady spots.
  8. Don't pass snowplows unless it's absolutely necessary.
  9. Prepare your vehicle for winter driving at the start of the season.
  10. Check to be sure all four tires are in good condition.
  11. Don't wait until the last minute to get snow tires mounted.
  12. Keep an emergency travel kit in your car.

When you encounter a snowplow:

  • Don’t crowd the plow.
  • Plow drivers have limited visibility so don’t assume your vehicle is in view.
  • Maintain a safe distance behind the snowplow.
  • Plows aren't just removing snow. They may also be spreading sand or deicer on the road.
  • Be patient—never pass through a white out.
  • The driver will pull over when it is safe to do so to allow vehicles to pass.
  • Slow down.

Plows are large and move slower than highway speeds. It is difficult to judge distance when approaching the plow so slow down immediately to avoid a collision.

Plan ahead: winter driving safety tips